Thanksgiving is a week away, and it’s not too late to incorporate some simple ideas to make hosting this most famous feasting holiday as easy as pie…preferably pumpkin!
So with that goal in mind, today I’m sharing my favorite shopping tips, as well as a couple of other shortcuts to make Thanksgiving dinner enjoyable for all, even the hostess.
Tip number 1: Shopping should be done in two trips, and two trips only!
My husband and I recently put on a fundraising dinner for 50 people. We did all of the shopping for everything from napkins to the fresh ingredients, and then prepared the complete meal. The strategy that made this not only organized, but easy, was two shopping trips.
About 10 days before the event, we followed a well-planned list and purchased all of the shelf stable ingredients. This not only included the entrée items, but bottles of wine and lemonade, and canned goods. These were staged on an out-of-the-way counter in our kitchen. The paper goods, foil baking trays, serving pieces, and other items were put together as well. Two days before the event, we did the second shopping trip for the perishables, such as meat, dairy and vegetables. As every person who has ever tried to grocery shop for Thanksgiving knows, shopping on the Tuesday before is a nightmare! But when all you have to purchase are the fresh items, you cruise through the perimeter of the store where the meat, veggies and dairy live, never going down one single aisle. Trust me; this works.
Tip Number 2: Do as Much Ahead as Possible
Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or a dinner party for another occasion, anything you can do ahead will reduce time, and therefore stress, on the day of the event. In the non-food department, take time to fill salt and pepper shakers, decide on which napkins, plates and glasses you will use. Plan the complete menu and grocery list. Break this down into the two shopping trips mentioned in Tip 1. A couple of days before the event is not too soon to get the dishes out, make sure they are clean, and put them covered on the counter. This is also a good time to make a list of things to do before dinner. Items such as fill the water glasses, put out the rolls, light the candles and put the olives in a bowl are not only good reminders, but if someone asks you for help, you can point to the list and give them a job. The older I get, the more complete this list has become. There is nothing worse than finding one of your side dishes or appetizers in the refrigerator after everyone has gone home, just because you forgot to put it out. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Tip Number 3: Take Shortcuts!
There are a number of shortcuts that can be taken to make entertaining easier than ever.
Paper plates are a viable option that can not only be beautiful, but even sturdy enough to hold a 5 pound plate of Thanksgiving loveliness. The same goes for paper napkins and plastic glassware. If you are hosting a crowd, disposables can make things easier, and many are now made with recycled materials, making the environmentalists happy.
Instant mashed potatoes, stuffing mixes, prepared deli salads and frozen appetizers from Costco are not four letter words. Neither is admitting you can’t do it all. Ask Aunt Sue to bring a side dish. Flatter your neighbors by asking them to bring their amazing homemade rolls. Some of my favorite meals have been potlucks where you get to try new and different concoctions. It is especially nice if everyone brings recipe cards to go along with their items. So remember, the word delegation is a noun and a verb, possibly making it your new best friend.
At the end of the day, people won’t care if the gravy was lumpy or the paper napkins were from IKEA (which are actually lovely by the way!) What you hope they remember is the laughter, fellowship, and the relaxed hostess that made your gathering memorable indeed.